Working with the Community

Participants in the Upward Bound program make prairie dog observations at Montana's Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

Today we took the Upward Bound students to do behavioral observations on prairie dogs and horses. I think it was the first time most of them just sat and took time to watch wildlife. They seemed to really get into it, even though the prairie dogs were shy and didn’t come out of their burrows for the first 10 minutes. It’s difficult to have high school students be quiet for that long!

Their observation methods mirrored the approach zoo scientists use to study endangered species such as black-footed ferrets.

For another activity, they each had to develop and present their own public service announcement. They choose some really interesting topics: the need for more zoos, unemployment on the reservation, air quality, the Upward Bound program (it just lost funding, so this will be its last year on the reservation), the loss of natural resources.

Students offered presentations on topics ranging from unemployment to natural resource loss.

Wildlife Biologist Adriann Killsnight gave a little presentation on her research and how she got where she is today. She’s a tribal member who is working on her master’s studying swift foxes.

Finally, one of them most compelling moments was when mentor Elvera talked about the Northern Cheyenne and their culture. She highlighted nature and how the students should be proud and want to help preserve it for the next generation. In all, the day offered a reminder of the richness of the community and all it has to offer as a partner in conserving black-footed ferrets.

Community mentor Elvera spoke about the Northern Cheyenne cultural heritage.

A sweat lodge on the reservation highlights the endurance of cultural traditions.

Rachel Santymire

Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.,
is director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology. She's in Montana's Northern Cheyenne Reservation as part of the zoo's partnership with the community to conserve endangered black-footed ferrets.


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